Kateryna Lytvynenko from Mykolaivka, Donetsk region, with the support of the EU and UNDP, helps people in wheelchairs to freely move around the city. She also created a coworking space, where women, seniors and migrants learn to use computer and other gadgets.
Kateryna was born and raised in Mykolaivka, a small town of power engineers, a satellite of Sloviansk. Katia lived in the city of Dnipro for a long time, and in 2014, after the city was liberated from occupation, she returned to her homeland. She worked with one of the charitable funds, providing assistance to IDPs.
Today she is an entrepreneur who organizes events, but she devotes a large part of her time to social projects.
“It so happened that all my activities and my professions were always oriented on people and helping them. My first education is medical, the second one is pedagogical – I am a psychologist and a biology teacher,” says Kateryna.
“When I returned to the city, I saw that Mykolaivka had a huge amount of just “screaming” problems and challenges that required an immediate response. Therefore, I decided for myself: I need to register a non-governmental organization, analyze the situation in order to understand where to start, and get down to solving local problems. That is how I Believe in Ukraine non-governmental organization was registered and our first project was written “Advocacy to Protect Rights of People with Disabilities by Involving Them in Active Decision-Making at the Community Level.”
The project was supported by the United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine with financial support of the European Union under the Recovery & Peacebuilding Programme.
The idea of this project was born when Kateryna with a group of activists and like-minded people paid attention to the fact that the city was absolutely not adapted for the population with limited mobility. Nobody has ever dealt with accessibility and barrier-free issues in the city. But the population with limited mobility is not only those who move in a wheelchair. This includes mothers with prams and, by the way, future mothers too, and people with injuries and temporary disability, and also elderly people. There can be up to 30-40% of such people in the city.
“We conducted a focus group study, which resulted in the detection of the most acute problems and the greatest “bottlenecks” in the city, after which we held a round table with representatives of local authorities,” says Kateryna. “We organized a series of training sessions, went to learn from experience in Mariupol, where similar projects had already been successfully implemented. The goal of our project was not just to solve the problems of people who need help, but to teach them to do it on their own, to make the city authorities and the community hear them and take into account their needs.”
Today, more than a year after the launch of the project, we can confidently say that it has been crowned with success. The city has an Administrative Service Center, equipped according to all the standards of barrier-free access; similar problems at other institutions are solved; roads and pavements are made taking into account the needs of the people with limited mobility. There is a really efficient accessibility committee, with which all infrastructural and architectural decisions of the city authorities are coordinated.
“But, probably, this is not the most important thing,” Katia reflects. “People felt that they were taken into consideration, that, having united, they could effectively address their problems. Not only their own problems, but also to help other people. Therefore, the articles of association of the NGO have already been formulated, and they intend to continue to engage in similar projects on their own.”
Success inspired activists to new projects. The project to create a co-working in Mykolaivka for women, retirees and other socially vulnerable residents of Mykolaivka and IDPs turned out to be especially successful and demanded.
The idea of it arose somewhat unexpectedly. Mykolaivka is a small town, where one would think that for every inhabitant every person he meets is a person he knows or a neighbour. It turned out that everything is not so simple here: a lot of people, especially retirees and elderly, suffer from loneliness, have serious problems with communication and contact.
This problem has become very clear after a representative of the Ukrainian Woman’s Fund visited the city, told about the Fund’s projects, how a “data sheet of the community” is drawn up, which is a certain study that helps find out the most urgent and “sick” problems.
“It turned out that women of retirement age are most affected by this problem,” tells Kateryna. “Most of them are full of energy and desire to do something useful not only for themselves, but also for others. In the end, someone just suffers from loneliness, not having the ability or skills to use all the communication opportunities that exist today.”
So the idea was born to create a certain space where there would be computers, the Internet, free Wi-Fi, where people could work or simply search for the necessary information, communicate with each other, contact friends or relatives living far away on the Internet.
The idea received support in the form of a grant amounting to UAH 125,800 from the Ukrainian Woman’s Fund within the framework of the component “Community Mobilization for Empowerment” – a joint UNDP-UN Women Project “Restoration of Governance and Reconciliation in Crisis-Affected Communities of Ukraine” funded by the European Union.
Within the project, computer literacy courses were organized, in particular “in two streams”: for those who are a little familiar with the computer, and separately for those who came to learn literally from scratch – to turn on the computer, introduce the interface and use the mouse.
Co-working, which was initially intended as a project for women, turned out to be a very popular idea, and among men too.
Initially, the project was designed for 70-80 people, but there were a total of 120 people and everyone who wanted joined it. Today, co-working successfully works, and its organizers are trying to attract additional resources to participate in the project. For example, one of the owners of the mobile communications salon volunteered to conduct free training on working with modern gadgets.
“We are very inspired by the result” says Kateryna. “Beside the fact that we have achieved the program goals planned by the project, we see another, more inspiring result: many people just cheered up; they had a reason to go outside for one more time. They come here as if for some event; not only they acquire new skills and interests, but get to know each other, make friends, implement some small ideas of their own. It is also incredibly inspiring for us to generate new ideas and projects.”
By Dmytro Lukianenko
Source – OSTROV